Like most corporate offices, we had Independence Day celebrations at my workplace. E-mails were sent the previous day informing the staff to turn up in colors of saffron, white or green (preferably traditional Indian wear). The otherwise dull looking cubicles suddenly had tricolor balloons stuck randomly. Everyone tried their best to pick up clothes that atleast fit somewhere in the color category of saffron, white or green. Selfies and team pictures were taken and quickly updated on social networking sites (yes I too posted a couple of them). And that was that. End of celebrations. That's what it has come to!
Back in school, Independence days were different. My school invited only 4th Standard and 10th Standard students for the celebrations on the 15th of August. Nothing biased. It was just that the class strength was too much to accommodate and manage every standard. Plus, the possible rains added to the chaos. The student to teacher ratio was overwhelming. But that didn't mean the other students were excluded from the celebrations. The 14th of August was all about patriotic speeches, stories of brave freedom fighters and singing all the songs to our hearts content. We would literally sing all through the school day on 14th August. The list of songs was never ending and we knew them all by heart. I still remember the times when "Ae mere watan ke logo" was played on speakers and I had goosebumps each time. When I reached my standard 10th, I was chosen to deliver a speech on that day. I remember writing the speech and editing it until I was finally satisfied with the content. I kept practicing the speech. On the day of the speech, my words just kept flowing, hardly repeating the things that were written. I spoke what I truly thought and covered up the gist of whatever I had written. I can never forget that day, because that was when I was applauded by the entire audience. My teachers patted me and told me that they were proud of me.
Every year, our school followed the tradition of calling the topper of 10th board exams to hoist the flag. How many of us get that chance? To hoist a flag and proudly salute as it unfurls? I returned back to school the next year to hoist the flag. In that moment, I realized the true honor of the national flag. Words can't describe the feelings of seeing your flag in full glory. I am sure every one of us has felt that innate sense of patriotism every time we attend flag hoisting. It all feels like another time. Of course we didn't have to fake it to show off on social sites. It was all natural.
Today, as I sat working on my laptop, another team was participating in some contest. They stood in a circle and sang "Mere desh ki dharti" while one of them was recording. The other teams looked at them, embarrassed. How dare they act like kids in a corporate environment? Don't they know better than not to display such childish behavior? None of us dared to join. I am sure no one even uttered one patriotic word other than forwarding Independence day messages. That is what it has reduced to. We stop expressing joy and learn to dissociate. What will happen if we feel patriotic? Nothing is going to change in this country. The politics has ruined every thing. In fact, our Independence itself is a big politics. The complaints are unending. Ask someone who is patroling the borders for you! There are hardly incentives, there are no coffee breaks and no day without a deadline. If each one us thought like that, we would be under another rule by now.
But we have all joined the corporate world and we have to be uptight about it. Says who? The problem starts here. We stop expressing the greatness and gratitude for the country. We only see the negatives. We create another generation of people who do not respect the country. Who do not know the glory of the national flag. Who do not know what it took to attain where we are today. The very people who click pictures with national flag and post on instagram, facebook and where not, do not even bother to pick one up the next day. Every one knows the story of flags on 16th of August. I do not need to repeat it.
None of us became leaders or politicians. But we could all become good civilians. Teach a child to respect the flag and he will know the sacrifices of lives it takes to put one up in a war zone. Do not forget the stories, for he may not become a freedom fighter but he will know what it takes to lead. Sing the songs aloud, for they were all created in memory of something great. Do not let the story die even if it is 69 years old.
Here's wishing you all a very happy Independence Day. Treasure it because someone lost everything for you to have it. Do not buy a flag if you do not know what to do with it the next day!
P.S: This is a very hurried post and written in absolute abandon of the relativity. Forgive the same because I could hardly control myself from putting it all at once :)